The discovery of a solar system as old as the Milky Way and with five Earth-like planets could shed new light on the possibility of ancient life forms in the galaxy.
The planets orbit around Kepler 444, which at 11.2 billion years old, is more than twice as old as the sun, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham in Britain.
Despite being 117 light-years away from Earth, in the direction of the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, researchers were able to learn more about the solar system using a practice called astroseismology.
The five planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest about the size of Venus and the smallest just bigger than Mercury.
These planets orbit their star in less than 10 days at less than one-tenth the Earth’s distance from the sun, which makes them too close for habitation, said the University of Sydney’s Daniel Huber, part of the team.
“We’ve never seen anything like this — it is such an old star and the large number of small planets make it very special,” Huber said in a statement. “It is extraordinary that such an ancient system of terrestrial-sized planets formed when the universe was just starting out, at a fifth its current age.”
Lead researcher Tiago Campante of the University of Birmingham in England noted in a statement that by now knowing close-to-Earth-size planets formed so long ago, that “could provide scope for the existence of ancient life in the galaxy.”
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